MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Thor, Citizen Kane, Just Peck, Meek’s Cutoff, Leading Ladies, Bill Cunningham New York, Spartacus …

Thor: Blu-ray 3D
Marvel Knights: Thor & Loki Blood Brothers

You know things are bad on Earth, when superheroes from other universes are stripped of their powers and sent here as punishment, instead of refuge and a “chance for life,” as was Superman. Albania, maybe, but not the good ol’ U.S. of A. That’s exactly what happened, however, when the Norse god Odin decided his impudent son, Thor, needed to be taught a lesson in humility and banished him to the third rock from the Sun. While here, Thor inhabited the mind and body of a partially disabled medical student, Donald Blake. Blake was to Thor, what Clark Kent was to Kal-El, at least in comic-book mythology. In director Kenneth Branagh’s Shakesperian imagination, Thor’s back-story more closely resembles “Henry V,” than the sustained belligerency of Norse and Germanic canon. Maybe so, but, physically, his Thor would resemble a hybrid of Jim Morrison and Green Bay Packer linebacker Clay Matthews. Nothing wrong there, really, except for the fact that Dr. Blake was jettisoned in pre-production and the Thor of legend probably owes more to Wagner than Shakespeare. Sadly, the 3D extravaganza that emerged from two decades of development hell feels nearly as stage-bound as any play that depends on lighting and sound effects for maximum impact, instead of story and acting. By contrast, the highly entertaining motion-comics mini-series, “Marvel Knights: Thor & Loki Blood Brothers,” also newly released on DVD, feels downright operatic. It captures the thunderous majesty of the myth, unencumbered by pop-tart casting and CGI overload. I recommend watching them back to back, if only for shits and giggles.

After being banished from Asgard in Branagh’s “Thor,” the headstrong son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) crash lands in a desolate patch of land in the American Southwest. Unbeknownst to the deity-in-waiting (Chris Hemsworth), the mighty Mjolnir hammer lands a short distance away. The heat from its entry into Earth’s atmosphere has forged it to bedrock, available for use only to a man of Arthurian virtues. A bunch of good-ol’-boys attempt to dislodge it with their 4X4’s, but are chased from the crater by military types. Meanwhile, Thor has been rescued from a desert storm by Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings, who work for scientist Stellan Skarsgard and clearly are in awe of his physique (as we’re in awe of their’s). The feeling, at least in the case of Jane Foster (Portman), is mutual. Back in Asgard, Thor’s traitorous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), takes advantage of their father’s terminal condition by unleashing the forces of evil against his Earth-bound sibling. The resulting showdowns between aliens, impotent earthlings and Thor, who can’t seem to recall what his father sent him here to do, combine elements of every western and alien-invasion movie ever made. If “Transformers,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Rango” were ever to be reconstituted, the product might look like the terrestrial sections of “Thor.” Much more exciting are the CGI battles between the forces of Asgard and the Frost Giants,” which probably look pretty terrific in 3D, which I still can’t afford, but aren’t particularly comic-bookish. The Blu-ray/3D/DVD package adds commentary by Branagh, several making-of featurettes and cast interview segments; 11 deleted scenes, with optional commentary; a too-short conversation with the comics’ co-creator Stan Lee, co-producer Craig Kyle and comic-book writer J. Michael Straczynski; and the celebrity geek-fest, “Road to the Avengers,” from the 2010 Comic-Con, in which the ensemble cast of Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated “The Avengers” is introduced.

In “Blood Brothers,” Thor’s devious and power-mad brother, Loki, has commandeered Odin’s throne, imprisoning the Thunder God deep within the dungeons of Asgard. The motion-comics miniseries was adapted from the 2004 Marvel Comics arc, “Loki,” by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic. The story-telling and illustrations are far more complex and mature than anything in Branagh’s “Thor.” It’s even a little sexy, with shapely concubines and other chained vixens. The DVD set adds “Sons of Asgard: Looking Back at ‘Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers’,” with writer Rodi and artist Ribic; a 20-minute “Behind the Scenes” piece; and a trailer for the movie. – Gary Dretzka

Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Available for the first time on Blu-ray, through Amazon, “Citizen Kane” is the movie against which all serious American films are measured. Unlike many of the titles selected by critics in their best-ever lists, Orson Welles’s masterpiece is truly entertaining and every bit as accessible today as it was in 1941. It tells a distinctly recognizable story about the pitfalls of power, greed, misplaced values and hubris, using techniques that feel fresh, 70 years later. Buffs could watch “Citizen Kane” a hundred different times and discover something new and significant each time. Less scholarly types can find something revelatory in it, as well, even if they’re unable to pin down what it is, exactly, and don’t have the time to re-watch it. Considering that the era of the all-powerful newspaper publisher are long gone, I thinks it’s fair for newcomers to compare Charles Foster Kane to Rupert Murdoch, if the Aussie magnate had used his fortune to seek public office, instead of dumb down his media companies in the name of greed. I have no idea what kinds of treasures are contained within the walls of Murdoch’s many abodes, but certainly nothing as magnificent as those found in William Randolph Hearst’s personal Xanadu, San Simeon, now one of California’s most popular tourist destinations. Welles and co-writer Herman Mankiewicz’ protagonist is a hundred times more charismatic than Murdoch could ever hope to be, however, and far less petty and craven in his ambitions. (In his prime, Ted Turner might have provided the fodder for an offbeat version of Kane.) Certainly, he’s aged well. Longtime admirers and first-timers will be equally rewarded by the pristine hi-def restoration on display in the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition,” whose visual and audio assets accentuate everything special about the film, especially the fine ensemble acting and Gregg Toland’s revolutionary cinematography. It arrives with a trove of terrific bonus features, including separate discs containing the Oscar-nominated 1995 documentary, “American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane” and “RKO 281,” an Emmy-winning HBO movie starring Lief Schreiber, James Cromwell, Roy Scheider and Melanie Griffith. Besides the feature film, Disc One adds commentaries by Peter Bogdanovich and Roger Ebert; interviews with actor Ruth Warrick and director Robert Wise; a 48-page booklet, with storyboards, call sheets and still photography; marketing material; newsreel footage and a reproduction of the 20-page souvenir program from the New York premiere; and lobby-card reproductions. Amazon is also offering a 70th anniversary edition that comes with a DVD of “The Magnificent Ambersons,” albeit in its heavily edited theatrical version in standard format. – Gary Dretzka

Just Peck
As far as I can tell, the very decent high school dramedy, “Just Peck,” received no distribution in the United States and has yet to be reviewed by anyone who has a life beyond scribbling “customer reviews” for Amazon and IMDB. Keir Gilchrist (“United States of Tara”) plays the title character, an undersized sophomore able to deflect the anti-geek prejudices of his fellow students by being genuinely funny and a bit of a rebel. When he gets in trouble at school, his parents (Adam Arkin, Marcia Cross) are quick to defend Peck as a budding genius, whose talents are beyond the ken of authorities. In return for their intercessions, they insist he participate in clubs and after-school activities that could enhance the chances of his getting into a high-end college. Peck isn’t a nerd and doesn’t consider his teachers to be idiots, even though a couple of them would qualify, but he knows the only way to be noticed among the jocks, brains and beauties is to do something so spectacular, everyone has to stand up and notice him. In too many movies, this would require him to build an arsenal of weapons and cart them to school one day. Even if he didn’t take out a single student or teacher, headlines would be guaranteed and jail time would be warranted. In director Michael A. Nickles and writer Marc Arneson’s hands, however, this means using his imprisonment in the science club – metaphorically speaking, anyway — to create an invention that might even shock his parents.

In another departure from form, Peck is able to befriend one of the school’s hot blonds using only his sense of humor and cynical observations. It isn’t a love match, per se, but their friendship is genuine. The unseen parents of the girl, Emily (Brie Larson, also of “Tara”), are the opposite of Peck’s, in that they assume their daughter will succeed and can’t be bothered by the budding neuroses and petty needs of a 17-year-old. When the weight of her world comes crashing down on Emily, she withdraws from high school society entirely, eventually leaning on Peck for support. If this scenario doesn’t sound typical to you, know that the events capping “Just Peck” are even more surprising … and satisfying. I can easily recommend the movie to teens and their parents, who might get a kick out of watching something together that isn’t filled with fart jokes, hazing rituals and broken condoms. “Just Peck” may not be in the same league with John Hughes’ best film, but Nickles and Arneson appear to have learned something from the master. Camryn Manheim does a nice job as the principal frustrated as much by her students’ parents as the antics of the kids. – Gary Dretzka

Meek’s Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt’s fourth feature feels far more like a chapter in a book or episode in a mini-series than a movie that begins in one more or less recognizable place and ends in another, with all loose ends tied and dilemmas resolved. The story follows a small convoy of settlers, as they slowly make their way west on the Oregon Trail, in 1845. Their destination is the Willamette Valley, where pioneers and homesteaders were in the early stages of creating a government and already dreaming of statehood. Word had gotten out through letters home that Oregon was a land of plenty, with unlimited opportunity open to those who survive the trip. That, of course, was the challenge. The wagons are being led by the rough-hewn guide, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who spins a good yarn, but isn’t so proficient at following the trail. As we meet the three couples and a child making the trek, Meek has led them across the last body of potable water they’ll see in the next 104 minutes of movie time. He continually assures them that water lies ahead, but, since they’re off course, he could be wrong.

Somewhere west of a large alkaline lake, one of the women comes face-to-face with that most fearsome of God’s creatures, an American Indian trying to survive the same conditions as the pilgrims. He’s alone, wounded and, despite the presence of a seethed knife, clearly not intent on capturing scalps or raping the womenfolk. This, however, is what Meek tells them will happen if the man isn’t captured and killed. Sensing that the nameless Indian might have a better chance at finding water than the guide, they agree to give him time to do just that, not that he understands a single word of what they’re saying. Basically, the settlers simply follow the Indian’s lead west, waiting for him to find a river or oasis only known to native tribes. It takes a while, but the kindnesses shown him by Michelle Williams’ Emily draw him a wee bit closer to his Bible-reading captors. Witnessing his chants and offerings to the spirits, they begin to see a relationship between their worlds and disparate beliefs. Meek finally is the sole subscriber to the belief all non-Christians are heathens, but, by now, he’s willing to be proven wrong. Then, as enigmatically as it began, “Meek’s Cutoff” ends, with the prospect, if not the promise of water still ahead. Methinks, the abruptness of the non-climax won’t satisfy many viewers.

Obviously, “Meek’s Cutoff” doesn’t play by the same rules governing conventional westerns and wagon-train movies. In this way, it resembles Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” and other revisionist oaters. If anything, it’s a pre-western, set at a time well before the authors of dime novels could pollute the minds of gullible easterners with lies, clichés, archetypes and racism. Besides Williams and Greenwood, the cast includes Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson and Ron Rondeaux, as the Cayuse brave. Anyone looking for a distinctly American movie that is contemplative, historically accurate and beautifully shot should check out “Meek’s Cutoff.” The DVD adds a making-of featurette that demonstrates the difficulty of trying to re-create the desolation and harsh conditions facing settlers in the early days of the Oregon Trail, given the wires, concrete and signage that scar the horizons of our open spaces today. – Gary Dretzka

Son of Morning
Freshman writer/director Yaniv Raz has managed to assemble an excellent cast in the service of a movie that could hardly be more strange or discordant. The story is founded on fears a solar catastrophe is about to destroy the world and the only hope for salvation lies in the timely appearance of a messiah. When a young copywriter develops stigmata, after witnessing the suicide of his father, some folks believe it’s him. An ambitious reporter (Heather Graham) gloms onto Phillip (Joseph Cotton), hoping for the scoop of the century. In far too short order, the so-called Son of Morning is hailed as the real deal, even if he can’t utter a complete sentence in public. Lavished with praise and overwhelmed by desperate young women hoping to bag a messiah, he begins to believe his own press clippings. The rest of the movie is an unholy mess and not even such familiar actors as Lorraine Bracco, Danny Glover, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Edward Herrmann, Bob Odenkirk, Jessie Bradford, Stephen Root, Steven Weber and Jon Polito make it easier to swallow. We already know that politicians, corporations and other snake-oil salesmen will rush to exploit anyone the rubes anoint as their savior … even Jesus Christ, who’s no longer around to defend himself. The same sort of scenario played out a million times better in “Being There.” The DVD includes a junkety interview with Heather Graham. – Gary Dretzka

The Exterminator: Blu-ray
ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2: Unrated: Blu-ray
Haunting at the Beacon
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Manos: The Hands of Fate

I wonder how many zero-star reviews Roger Ebert has given to movies he’s deemed worthy of his well-articulated contempt. Not many, I’d be willing to wager. I know that in 1980 he awarded two such dingers, at least, to movies in which blood flowed like water and none of it in an artful fashion. His scathing takedown of “I Spit on Your Grave” made news, but it was preceded in print by “The Exterminator,” which arrives this week on DVD and Blu-ray. In assessing its value, or lack thereof, Roger opined, “‘The Exterminator’ is a sick example of the almost unbelievable descent into gruesome savagery in American movies.” The review ends with, “(It) exists primarily to show burnings, shootings, gougings, grindings and beheadings. It is a small, unclean exercise in shame.” Thirty years later, some people might find “The Exterminator” to be no less offensive. As a revenge vehicle, however, its shock value has been eclipsed by dozens of far more meaninglessly graphic gore-fests. They include the newly released “ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2,” which makes “The Exterminator” look like a day at the beach with Frankie and Annette. Today, the violence in Exterminator” mostly looks contrived and cheesy, even. The villains seem clownish, even as they pummel their prey. That said, “I Spit on Your Grave,” with its hideous depictions of rape and revenge, is no less sickening today than it was 30 years ago.

“The Exterminator” added very little new to the revenge sub-genre, whose popularity was waning even then. By assuming that the police and courts would provide little comfort to victims and survivors of violent crime – and perpetrators needed to be taught a stern lesson — it merely was exploiting a belief widely held by most Americans. Robert Ginty played the title character, who along with two other U.S. soldiers, are captured and tortured by enemy forces in Vietnam. He was saved by the quick thinking of a fellow prisoner (Steve James), who, back in New York, would become his best friend. When a gang of human gargoyles attempts to steal beer from the warehouse of an elderly vendor, John and Michael spring into action. The thugs return the favor by breaking every bone in Michael’s body and putting him on death’s doorstep. Knowing Michael won’t make it, John vows to take care of his buddy’s family and avenge the attack, in kind. He accomplishes both goals, while also taking on the mob family extorting money from the meat wholesalers who employed them. So far, so bloody. Incredibly, a romance also erupts between the police detective (Christopher George) chasing the Exterminator and the doctor (Samantha Eggar) who’s treating Michael. Indeed, the hook up while standing over the patient, who’s in a full-body cast. It gets even more ridiculous from there. “The Exterminator” stands as an extreme example of the type of exploitation movies that followed immediately in the wake of “Straw Dogs,” “Dirty Harry,” “Death Wish,” “Billy Jack,” “Walking Tall,” “Slaughter,” “Hell Up in Harlem” and “Taxi Driver,” all significantly better movies. If anything, the restored, director’s cut version of “The Exterminator” is more violent and gory than the original. The passage of time has made it far easier to stomach, however.

Not having seen “Laid to Rest,” it’s impossible for me to compare it to the sequel, “ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2.” From what I can ascertain, however, the former involved more of cat-and-mouse chase between a disoriented girl, who wakes up in a coffin, and a relentless fiend wearing a metal mask over his grotesquely disfigured face. “ChromeSkull” picks up where “Laid to Rest” left off, with the mass murderer needing some work done in the body shop, before he sets out to kill again. What’s bugging him, exactly, I don’t know. While ChromeSkull is being patched up, his assistant, Preston (Brian Austin Green) goes on a spree of his own, slaughtering potential witnesses with weapons as yet unavailable at cable’s “Cutlery Corner.” Light and razor-sharp, the blades and throwing stars slice through flesh and bone like, well, a knife through water. After ChromeSkull and his rogue assistant are finished with potential witnesses from the earlier murder, they begin laying waste to new victims, in the loudest possible manner. Director Robert Hall’s experience as a makeup-effects wizard adds greatly to the horror of the kills, and some of them do look sickeningly real. I doubt that hard-core genre fans will be disappointed with the movie or making-of featurette.

“Haunting at the Beacon” (a.k.a., “The Beacon”) is an intermittently scary ghost story, set in a haunted old hotel in Texas, which has been converted to an apartment building. After the horrible disappearance of their 4-year-old son, Bryn and Paul Shaw (Teri Polo, David Rees Snell) move to a university town, where Paul has accepted a position. No sooner does the couple move into the otherwise cozy Beacon Apartments, than Bryn begins sensing the presence of poltergeists and hearing mysterious noises in unoccupied apartments. For his part, Paul helps a damsel in distress (Elaine Hendrix), assaulted by a zombie-ish intruder. Extremely grateful for his intervention, the woman nearly performs falletio on him in the elevator. Before long, the noises begin getting louder and some violent events bring police to the Beacon. Coincidentally, Paul’s officemate is a specialist in paranormal activity and he begins researching the history of the building. It’s pretty wild. More information than that would ruin the surprises ahead, so let’s keep it at that.

No list of ten-worst movies should be taken seriously if “Manos: The Hands of Fate” isn’t near the top. By comparison, Ed Wood’s “Glen or Glenda” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space” are merely under-baked, and “Troll 2” is a near-miss. How bad is it? The normally unrepentant producers of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” who brought it back from the dead in 1993, admit to being embarrassed for unleashing it on an unsuspecting public. Besides having no redeeming aesthetic qualities, “Manos” is too incoherent to provide much camp value, either. It’s simply an extremely lousy movie, and the only reason to watch it is to hear what the astronauts on the Satellite of Love have to say about it, which is plenty. In a nutshell, “Manos” chronicles an ill-fated drive in the country taken by a family of typically clueless American tourists in the days before the completion of the Interstate Highway System. Dad thinks he knows where they’re going, but, of course, he doesn’t. Finally, they end up at the Casa de Master. The dilapidated motel is home to a demonic cult leader, who keeps a bevy of toga-wearing brides chained inside a large sandbox, where they occasionally wrestle for his attention. Also in residence is a deformed satyr-like character, Tonga, who lusts after the women but isn’t allowed to touch them. In frustration, he snatches his guests’ young daughter, threatening to turn her over to Manos, unless Mom takes over her blouse and lets him cop a feel. It’s one of the ickiest scenes in the history of the American cinema.

“Manos” may be more noteworthy, though, for what doesn’t happen in it. For example, nearly 20 minutes are wasted as the family simply drives through the west Texas countryside and Highway Patrol officers continually roust a pair of teen neckers, independent of any related through-lines. This gem probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it weren’t for a bet made between writer/director /producer/actor Harold P. Warren –an El Paso insurance salesman, who, legend has it, became a manure mogul – and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who was in El Paso scouting locations for a film. The vanity project bore the brunt of the locals’ ridicule when it debuted in El Paso, before disappearing completely for a quarter-century. Adding to MST3K “fun” is the inclusion of “Hired,” a 1940s industrial short intended for Chevrolet dealers whose salesmen aren’t performing up to par. Hilarious in its utter stupidity, I kept waiting for Abbott & Costello to appear, so I knew when to laugh. The set also includes a panel discussion with the MST3K team, who reminisce about the origins of “Manos.” – Gary Dretzka

35 And Ticking: Blu-ray
Love, Wedding, Marriage: Blu-ray

While it’s nice to know that someone other than Tyler Perry, Tracey E. Edmonds and T.D. Jakes is capable of raising the money needed to make romantic comedies for “urban audiences,” no one benefits much if the pictures are so flat, contrived and full of clichés they can’t find distribution. That “Jumping the Broom” and “Madea’s Big Happy Family” found an audience, despite way too many lackluster moments, demonstrates how anxious African-American audiences are to see stars and characters who look like them. If nothing else, these films prove there’s no scarcity of attractive and talented young actors of color who can deliver the goods, even in roles that are undernourished, at best. In “35 and Ticking,” the couples facing midlife crises are played by veteran actors Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones, Keith Robinson, Kevin Hart, Mike Epps, Meagan Good, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Dondre Whitfield and Kym Whitley, among others. Each of the key characters is having problems in his or her relationship – or lack thereof – with a spouse, lover or parenthood. Some fear their biological clocks will stop ticking before they have children, while others have gotten to the age when children could wear them out or throw their social lives into a tailspin. This, of course, is not a problem unique to black characters. It’s a subject that’s already been beaten to death in rom-coms targeted for white audiences, and, yet, they still come.

Here, though, too many unbelievable things simultaneously. One desperately single man spends so much time in a sperm bank that he convinces friends it’s his place of employment. Another guy denies that his wife is cheating on him, even though she’s never home at night and has lost interest in their super-cute young son. Worst of all, the screenplay calls for the television reporter played by Parker – at 40, still one of our most beautiful actresses – to be so desperate for male company, she turns to an Internet dating service. After very little coaxing, the woman accepts a date with an aging ex-con so clueless that he takes her to a Crips party, without warning her ahead of time about the dangers of wearing a dress in Bloods colors. It’s that kind of a movie. Fortunately, the film’s final minutes offer several bittersweet surprises.

Rom-coms that aren’t particularly romantic or funny are pretty much the norm these days. “Love, Wedding, Marriage” is a tone-deaf affair, in which Mandy Moore – 27, but looking younger – plays a seasoned and well-regarded couples therapist. It’s telling that her first-hand experience is limited to two weeks of marriage to a far too handsome young man (Kellan Lutz) who fails to mention that he’s been previously married. Instead of dealing with it as a professional, Moore’s Ava completely flips out. She separates from her husband, even as she tries to heal the marriage of her own parents (James Brolin, Jane Seymour), which fell apart when Mom learned that Dad “cheated” on her while they were separated. (Is that a crime?) A better excuse would have been her husband’s sudden and extremely annoying adoption of Orthodox Judaism. I couldn’t tell if this plot device was supposed to be a sight gag or director Dermot Mulroney purposely sought to compile the least-Jewish cast he could find to play a Jewish family. After a while, nothing makes any sense in “Love, Wedding, Marriage,” a title that isn’t all the precise, either. The very lovely and competent Jessica Szhor (“Gossip Girl”), Michael Weston (“House”) and Christopher Lloyd also round out the cast. – Gary Dretzka

Leading Ladies
Brand New Day

The blurb from Variety on the cover of “Leading Ladies” compares it favorably to “Glee” and “High School Musical,” but it would have been far more accurate to cite Baz Luhrman’s spirited gotta-dance debut, “Strictly Ballroom.” Like so many other pictures targeted primarily to mainstream gay and lesbian audiences, Daniel Beahm and Erika Randall Beahm’s freshman effort – set in the world of competitive dancers — throws a lot of eggs in a single basket. More funny than sad, it probably qualifies as a dramedy. When one of the key characters finally acknowledges her sexual preference for women – viewers won’t need “gaydar” to come to the same conclusion, far earlier – it causes an uproar, of course. The furor is limited, however, to the woman’s comically overbearing mother and a few contest judges who feign horror over the thought of two women forming a dance team. (One of the judges, at least, clearly appears to be closeted.) No one else in the movie seems to think such a pairing is weird or abnormal. Finally, then, it’s a story about a young woman, Toni (Laurel Vail), who blossoms in the company of her new lover, Mona (Nicole Dionne), who isn’t averse to wearing makeup and bright, shoulder-baring outfits. Less an “ugly duckling” than simply plain, Toni doesn’t make a complete about-face, but a new look would be more in keeping with what’s expected of a contestant. While there’s a bit of sex, it’s of the PG-13 variety.

Normally, Toni wouldn’t be in a position to compete, as her sister, Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith), is the sibling groomed to be the star in the family. Tasi, though, discovers she’s pregnant when her costumes stop fitting. The revelation disturbs her mother (choreographer Melanie LaPatin), of course, but it’s only slightly less punishing than being told Toni won’t dance in Tasi’s place with anyone but Mona. That they’ve already begun training with everyone’s gay best friend — “So You Think You Can Dance” winner Benji Schwimmer – also pisses off Mom. Everything works out in the end, of course, but not precisely in the way one might expect. That’s a good thing. Everyone in and around “Leading Ladies” is relatively new to the narrative form, but it isn’t terribly obvious. Don’t expect any fancy Luhrmann touches in this low-budget, though.

The Australian export “Brand New Day” (a.k.a., “Bran Nue Dae”), on the other hand, should remind viewers very much of “Glee” and “High School Musical,” and just a little bit of Luhrmann. Adapted from a hit 1990 stage musical, Rachel Perkins’ vibrant entertainment decidedly is not an Aussie rip-off of those two distinctly American productions. Set in the late 1960s, it tells the story of a likeable young Aboriginal teenager from the tiny coastal town of Broome, Willie (Rocky McKenzie), who agrees to move to faraway Perth to fulfill his mother’s dream of him becoming a priest. Willie’s never met his father and has only recently become interested enough in girls to consider having a girlfriend, so the separation isn’t as traumatic as it might have been for other boys his age. Once at the heavily regimented school, Willie comes under the protective gaze of the quirky Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush). The otherwise upstanding lad would disappoint the priest by acknowledging his participation in a midnight raid on the kitchen’s pop- and candy-filled refrigerator.

Instead of merely smacking Willie’s knuckles with a ruler and being done with it, Benedictus uses the occasion of a student assembly to reveal a side of him they hadn’t seem. He rants about how grateful the Aborigine boys should be for their great opportunity not only to serve the Lord, but also to more easily assimilate into the white population. It’s ugly, but not completely out of line with the country’s official racial policy at the time. The incident does serve to kick-start the musical half of the story. After taking Benedictus’ punishment like a champ, Willie leads the student body in song, “There’s nothing I would rather be/Than to be an Aborigine/and watch you take my precious land away/For nothing gives me greater joy/than to watch you fill each girl and boy/with superficial existential shit.” The movie then follows Willie home to his tiny village, where all sorts of coincidental occurrences are explained, in a bright and shiny way. It’s a lot of fun, — Gary Dretzka

Bill Cunningham New York
Although firmly established in his artistic discipline and career, Bill Cunningham qualifies as one of those only-in-Manhattan eccentrics that New Yorkers treat as civic treasures, but occasionally manage to freak out the tourists. He may be immediately recognizable as the old guy who rides around Gotham on his old-school bicycle — wearing a cheap, hooded windbreaker in inclement weather – but Cunningham is a bona fide New York fashion icon. Anyone who regularly scans the New York Times’ Style section has seen his photographs of everyday people wearing interesting clothes. His models don’t get paid hundreds of dollars an hour to walk a catwalk or pose for glossy magazines in occasionally hideous outfits. They’re unpaid civilians who’ve created their own “look,” mixing and matching according to their own tastes, not those of fashion editors whose offices are so far above the street they might as well be in a helicopter. Cunningham politely asks his subjects if he can photograph them, giving them hope they’ll be immortalized in the Times for something other than committing a crime or being the victim of one. Viewed individually, the candid shots are nothing special, really. Collectively, though, they reveal trends, personal statements, cultural signposts and sometimes shocking new looks. Outside the context of the Times, the cumulative effect represents something akin to a modern cultural history of New York. He also shoots society types, often with a cocktail glass in their bony hands, but he prefers snapping impromptu photographs of pedestrians who pay for their clothes with hard-earned money and often ahead of a designer’s imprimatur.

Bill Cunningham New York” is a delightfully light and breezy portrait of the artist at work, play and in conversation. The 80-plus Harvard dropout couldn’t be more personable and enthusiastic about fashion, wherever and however it may surface. Fortunately for director Richard Press, Cunningham’s memory is, well, photographic. The anecdotes are told with love and respect for his subjects and friends, who range from the late queen of New York society, Brooke Astor, Tom Wolfe, Anna Wintour, Annette De La Renta, Harold Kota and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., to such camera magnets as fashionistas Shail Upadhya, Kenny Kenny and Patrick “The Dandy” McDonald. Unlike these high-fliers, though, Cunningham is a man of consistently modest means, who prefers to keep his private life private. He favors street food over haute cuisine and, for 50 years, lived in a Carnegie Hall studio filled to the bursting with photographs, negatives, magazines and newspaper layouts. As of last year, he’s purchased 29 Schwinn bikes to replace the 28 that have been stolen from him. The DVD arrives with 20 minutes of additional scenes and an upgraded audio/visual presentation. – Gary Dretzka

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown
As movies set in the world of the MMA and UFC go, “Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown” is a bit of anomaly, in that most of the action goes down outside the cage and money and fame aren’t the primary goals of the combatants. Neither does the plot require any against-all-odds comebacks or a religious conversion after a beat-down. This time around, the “Fight Club” atmosphere extends to a college campus and glitzy strip club, where, amazingly, one of the guys’ mom works. Michael Jai White plays an old-school fighter, Case Walker, who takes a group of college-age grapplers under his wing after they create a refuge for him in an empty warehouse. Case was forced to abandon his makeshift open-air gym after being confronted by an aggressively racist cop, who simply won’t let the ex-boxer alone. A brooding, rogue fighter also makes problems for Clay and his students. There are holes in the plot that fans of fight movies could drive a Hummer through, but viewers may be too distracted by the sounds of bones being broken to notice. Beyond that, all of the usual clichés apply. Also appearing are UFC champion Lyoto Machida, MMA fighter Scottie Epstein and UFC fighter Todd Duffee. – Gary Dretzka

Wishful Drinking
In her sometimes harrowing, more often hilarious one-woman Broadway show, “Wishful Drinking,” Carrie Fisher proves once again that she is one of the most fearless, and hilarious, women in Hollywood. Anyone who’s seen “Postcards From the Edge” or read any of Fisher’s beyond-candid memoirs, probably will already know how “Wishful Drinking” will unspool. After reminding her audience of her royal lineage and unforgettable turn as Princess Leila in “Star Wars,” Fisher recites a laundry list of her various personal malfunctions, including depression, bi-polar disorder, addictions to alcohol and drugs, a crazy childhood, a dysfunctional love life and loss of memory due to electro-shock treatments. And, yet, she’s lived to tell the tale. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the experience of performing “Wishful Drinking” on Broadway was intended to be therapeutic, as well as entertaining. The DVD includes a lengthy and quite revealing interview with Debbie Reynolds, who looks and sounds pretty together, but must have been a handful as a mother. – Gary Dretzka

Beverly Lewis’ the Shunning
It’s likely that this made-for-Hallmark drama will be relegated to the Christian or family-friendly section of most video stores. While “The Shunning” is unquestionably faith-based, it would be a crime to limit its message to one religion or faith, or, in effect, discourage potential viewers by ghettoizing it. Because an actress is shown wearing a bonnet on the cover and no one in the background is holding a gun or bloody pitchfork, it’s assumed there’s a religious message contained therein. If a Catholic priest is on the cover of a DVD, should we assume it’s about exorcism or something darker? Maybe so, but what about “The Song of Bernadette,” “The Nun’s Story,” “Boys Town” and “Angels With Dirty Faces”? “The Shunning” teaches a lesson about lying, withholding the truth, hypocrisy and intolerance in support of religious beliefs. One doesn’t have to go to church to consider such things wrong and, in some cases, criminal. On the other hand, where else could browsers so easily recognize movies that might not offend them?

When one really, really big lie reveals itself to Amish bride-to-be Katie Lapp (Danielle Panabaker), it threatens not only to break the ties that bind her family, but also test a basic tenet of the religious community in Lancaster, Pa. The movie opens with Sherry Stringfellow, in the backseat of a limousine desperately trying to deliver a message to a 20-year-old woman she believes is living in the vicinity. Naturally, none of the heavily bearded men she meets are willing to open up to a stranger, let alone an “English,” which is how everyone who isn’t Amish is labeled there. An older woman makes contact surreptitiously, dropping a hint that gives the outsider a smidgen of hope. The wall of silence and disapproving looks of the elders suggest the outsider could be a threat to the community and open a Pandora’s Box of secret stuff. Maybe not, though.

It so happens that Katie is about to be married to a Bishop of the church and widower with kids. She doesn’t seem particularly upset with the arrangement, even though the man’s strict adherence to certain principles already has cost her the right to play the guitar and sing “English” songs. Her parents can’t help but feel that having a bishop in the family would raise their profile in the community, and Stringfellow’s presence threatens them. After reading a letter handed to the elderly woman by the woman in the limo, they burn it without showing it to Katie. She discovers an unburned corner of the letter in the stove, but is forbidden from pursuing the matter any further, raising even more questions. Eventually, the young woman’s unwillingness to obey the orders of the church elders causes her to be “shunned” by the community at large and her parents. This makes everyone in town look like American Taliban, inflexible in their beliefs and intolerant of anyone not wearing a bib or beard. Typically, the filmmakers would by now have attempted to counter those impressions by adding scenes in which the Amish men convene to build barns, eat the healthy food made by the womenfolk and sell geometric quilts and rocking chairs to the tourists. Instead, we can’t help but sympathize with Katie’s plight and wonder if these people have ever read the Constitution.

Finally, at the risk of losing their daughter completely, slightly cooler heads are allowed to prevail, if only temporarily. The Amish take a surprising number of direct hits in Michael Landon Jr.’s film, which, considering Hallmark’s generally ecumenical approach to its programming is surprising. The only adult to demonstrate consistently Christian values is the elderly woman, who, it’s safe to assume, has seen it all and knows where lots of bodies are buried. She espouses everything we’ve come to know of the community and is able to sell part of the parents’ case to Katie. The Amish don’t watch much television, so it isn’t likely they’ll complain to Hallmark about the portrayal of their elders. Even so, “The Shunning” is a well-above-average made-for-TV movie, with fine performances and reasonably good Dutch-English accents. Show it to your bratty, ungrateful kids and they might come to the conclusion that there are worse problems in life than being forced to do their homework, shampoo the dog and be home by 10 p.m. on school nights. – Gary Dretzka

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena: Blu-ray
Camelot: Season One: Blu-ray
Glee: The Complete Second Season
Sanctuary: The Complete Third Season: Blu-ray
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season: Blu-ray
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The Complete Season 6
Supernatural: The Complete Sixth Season: Blu-ray
Ghost Hunters: Season 6: Part 1

The producers of Starz’ surprise hit series, “Spartacus,” faced a huge dilemma when Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with the leukemia that, earlier this week, claimed his life. Muscular and ruggedly handsome, Whitfield neatly fit the mold of a gladiator who beat extreme odds to reach the height of popularity in the arenas of greater Rome. The crowds respected his killing techniques so much, in fact, they bestowed on him the appellation, Spartacus, after an earlier hero. With the options for a second season limited by Whitfield’s uncertain future, the show’s creators decided to make a prequel, instead. They didn’t have to travel very far back in time, only to the point where the ambitious Quintus Batiatus (John Hannah) and his chronically horny wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), conspire to take over the family gladiator business. At this point in family history, Batiatus’ roster of fighters is pretty feeble, with only Gannicus (Dustin Clare) a dominating force. That would change with the arrival of Crixus (Manu Bennett), another stud in the sand and sack. As we already know, Batiatus and Lucretia will survive the six-episode prequel to love and lust in the official Season 1. Other newly introduced characters aren’t nearly as fortunate. The things fans loved in the original mini-series, “Blood and Sand” – gratuitous nudity, sex, debauchery and gore — are reprised in “Gods of the Arena,” in spades. Hey, it’s Rome … love it or leave it. The DVD and Blu-ray comes with several commentary tracks, extended scenes, alternate endings, “arena bloopers,” a 3D “Ring of Fire” battle sequence, cast interviews, “Content Too Risqué for Cable TV,” the Comic-Con panel, “anatomies” of scenes and other making-of material, and a set tour with Lawless.

At about the same time, Starz took its historically minded audience to Arthurian England, as well, and, this time, the producers didn’t have to rely as much on gratuitous anything to find a following. The sex and action scenes in “Camelot” are balanced with political intrigue, magic, mysticism and adventure. The blanks are filled in by what we already know about the legend, which, of course, also includes Merlin (Joseph Fiennes), Morgan (Eva Green), Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) and Jamie Campbell Bower, as the young Arthur. The Blu-ray edition includes a pop-up trivia and history track; cast and crew interviews; character profiles; scene breakdowns; a set visit with Peter Mooney; and a blooper reel.

One has to love something very much to debate it with the passion demonstrated by the many “Glee” fans that live and die with every new episode of the show. Each week in Season 2 seemed to bring increasingly more dramatic crises and romantic entanglements – as well as much wonderful singing and dancing — into the lives of the characters and their admirers. The year began with auditions for new club members, who, of course, would threaten the fragile balance established in Season 1. Will’s peculiar love life continued apace, while Kurt found a real boyfriend and new school, and Sue decided to marry herself. The inevitable destination for the characters, of course, was the finals in New York, which produced an ending few could predict. Guest stars included John Stamos, Katie Couric and Gwyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett and Kristin Chenowith, and homage was paid to Britney Spears, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and “Wicked.” Extras include the “Glee Music Jukebox,” “The Making of Rocky Horror,” “Getting Waxed With Jane Lynch,” “A Day in the Life of Brittany,” “Shooting Glee in New York” and a new song.

In the Syfy series “Sanctuary,” Amanda Topping plays a beautiful scientist – are there any other kind on TV? – who shelters “abnormal” creatures people in the outside world aren’t willing to accept in their midst. The extensive use of digital recording equipment and CGI effects add a unique texture to this atypical series. The 20-episode season fills six discs of material, along such bonus features as commentary on select episodes; “The Music of Sanctuary”; “Character Profile: Nikola Tesla”; “Hollow Earth”; bloopers and outtakes; and pieces on the visual effects seen in Season 3 and directing efforts by Amanda Tapping and Damian Kindler.

The Big Bang Theory” is one of those series that probably shouldn’t work, but does very well. Geeks are considered to be misfits for several reasons, among them the likelihood they’ll freeze in the presence of any woman, let alone one who looks like Kaley Cuoco. How do you build a series around that premise and expect it to attract anyone other than CalTech grads and Trekkies. Well, you start with really good actors, willing to look ridiculous in the service of zany storylines and unlikely love. The writers treated the characters’ awkward behavior as a perfectly treatment malady and inserted them into an environment that suited their quirks and rewarded their brilliance. “Big Bang” followed all the usual sitcom conventions, but its writers weren’t so reverent that they were afraid to tweak and twist them to the show’s benefit. The fourth-season Blu-ray package includes a visit to the set on taping day; “Actor on Actor: The Big Bang’s Theory of Relativity,” in which cast members interview each other; a 10-minute gag reel; a Barenaked Ladies music video and making-of segment; and BD-Live functionality.

How can “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” be entering its seventh season on FX? That kind of longevity would make it one of the most formidable shows on television, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I can’t even tell when one season ends and another begins, or what day of the week a new episode debuts. Makes me wonder how many more people would watch it if were on a broadcast network and the censors were ordered not to touch it. Of course, I wonder about the same thing with “Ensemble” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and how “Three and a Half Men” might look on cable. Not that it matters, any. There isn’t much left to say about “Always Sunny,” except that viewers never know for sure how far the writers will stretch the limits of good tastes. Special DVD features add an extended cut of “Lethal Weapon 5,” “Dennis and Dee’s Podcast,” audio commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, and bloopers.

The same could be said, I suppose, about “Supernatural,” which also is entering its seventh stanza. The difference, I think, is that the CW network tends to put a chokehold on its popular shows, knowing how difficult – and expensive — it is to compete with every other television entity in the country. Still, six years is impressive anywhere. Season 6 opened with Sam’s mysterious return from hell and Dean’s vow to turn over a new leaf by becoming a family man. That didn’t last long, though, as the lads now were required to search for Sam’s lost soul, while also taking on the usual array of demons, angels, vampires, shape-shifters and the Mother of All’s latest game-changer. The Blu-ray comes with audio commentaries, a gag reel and Easter egg, the featurettes “Jensen Ackles: A Director’s Journey,” “Supernatural and the Quest for the Soul” and the interactive “A Hunters’ Guide to Season Six,” special material from “The French Mistake” and two bonus episodes of “Supernatural: The Anime Series.”

The highlight of the sixth season of “Ghost Hunters” was the Atlantic Paranormal Society’s celebration of its 100th episode, which it marked with a special live episode. The team went to Alcatraz, which apparently is a hotbed for paranormal activity. They also visit the Philadelphia Zoo, Fort Ticonderoga, Cooperstown’s Otesaga Resort Hotel, a haunted reform school and the home of abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe. You can’t beat ghosts and other spirits of the netherworld for sheer entertainment value. – Gary Dretzka

Trainspotting: Blu-ray
Eating: 20th Anniversary Edition
Hickey & Boggs
The Revolutionary
Tomorrow Is Forever
A Quiet Place in the Country

It would be nice to think that the popular success of “127 Hours,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “28 Days Later” prompted adventurous moviegoers to seek out Danny Boyle’s early indie sensations “Trainspotting” and “Shallow Grave.” Not only did they make some money for investors, but they also brought Boyle to the attention of Hollywood. In hindsight, however, that may not have been such a good thing, as he ran into a brick wall with a pair commercial and critical failures, including the high-profile, “The Island,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen. It wasn’t until “Slumdog Millionaire” became a surprise hit – it was headed for a straight-to-DVD afterlife — that Boyle’s road leveled out again. Newly released in Blu-ray, “Trainspotting” chronicles a few months in the lives of a group of Edinburgh pals hooked on heroin and unlikely to hold a job more than a few days. Working off a book by Irvine Welsh, Boyle fearlessly leads viewers to the depths of the junky-dom in scene after inky black scene. The only movie that captures the nightmare lifestyle as well as “Trainspotting” is “Requiem for a Dream.” The Blu-ray adds commentary, several deleted scenes, a retrospective, making-of piece, gallery and digital disc.

Is there a man alive who doesn’t understand that the correct response to the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?,” is no response. Avoid the subject by any means at hand and walk away from the conversation. If a woman thinks she looks fat, even when she doesn’t, there’s no way to convince her of the truth. And, if you concede that an outfit may accentuate her extra pounds, you’ll never get out of the conversation alive. That’s part of the message delivered in “Eating,” during which Henry Jaglom eavesdrops on a couple dozen upper-middle-class wives and creative types gathered at a party on the West Side of L.A. They are there to be interviewed for a documentary about what women see when they look in a mirror … or some such thing. No matter what they see first, everything that follows will involve food and eating habits. The longer the women stay at the party, the more is revealed about their personal histories, personal neuroses and anxieties, and self-image. It’s at this point that, to a woman, their primary coping mechanism is food, whether it’s going down the esophageal chute or back up, in a display of bulimic rage. Among the women who pretty much play themselves are Nelly Alard, Mary Crosby, Frances Bergen, Rachelle Carson, Toni Basil, June Christopher, Beth Grant and Gwen Welles star. I have no idea what a woman might take away from “Eating,” but, for men, the lesson: don’t get between a woman and her nosh when she’s depressed. The DVD includes commentary by Jaglom and interviews.

The dozen or so titles released each month as part of MGM/Fox’s manufactured-on-demand program run the gamut from cult classic to star-studded, and from completely obscure to nostalgic. Given the costs associated with making and marketing DVDs, it’s likely the only way their release would make sense financially is a la mode.

Hickey & Boggs” is interesting because it reunited Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, the stars of the wildly successful TV series, “I Spy.” It also introduced Walter Hill as writer and represents Culp’s first and last outing as a director of feature films. In the 1972 neo-noir, Cosby and Culp play P.I.s who are the polar opposites of the secret agents in “I Spy.” They’re lazy, unhappy and unmotivated, until they catch the scent of a $25,000 reward and the bounty from an armored-car heist. The MOD titles arrive absent any frills, but otherwise look pretty good.

Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles, George Brent and 8-year-old Natalie Wood star in “Tomorrow Is Forever,” sudsy melodrama from 1946. In it, Welles plays Colbert’s soldier husband, who doesn’t return home from World War I, but isn’t dead, either. He’s been wounded so badly he thinks he’ll be a burden to his wife, and his absence would allow her to get on with her life thinking he’s KIA. What he doesn’t know and couldn’t do anything about it, even if he did, is that his wife is pregnant with their son and, in his absence, will marry a kind and generous executive at work. On the eve of World War II, Welles returns to Baltimore from Europe with a little girl (Woods) in tow. He’s still impaired physically, but it doesn’t impact the work he’s been hired to do. It’s here that Welles befriends Colbert’s husband, who invites him to their home. Although she doesn’t recognize her ex-husband, they share an electric moment. At one of the dinners, Welles is introduced to the son he didn’t know he had. The young man wants to volunteer to fly with the RAF before America’s entry to WWII and seeks Welles’ advice. Welles understands Colbert fears about such a decision, but also knows her son wants to contribute to the war effort in a meaningful way. Without revealing his secret, Welles finds a way to make mother and son come to the same conclusion independently. Keep a hankie handy for the heart-breaking ending.

A year after his breakthrough performance in “Midnight Cowboy,” Jon Voight starred in “The Revolutionary,” a drama made topical by the outbreak of anti-war protests on campuses across the country and around the world. As directed by Paul Williams and written by Dutch novelist Hans Koningsberger, “The Revolutionary” looked as if it were taking place in a landscape dictated Kafka or Orwell, instead of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. A decided old-world, old-left texture permeates the narrative. Even if you can’t get past the movie’s anachronistic look, there’s no faulting Voight’s brooding performance as an intellectual idealist who is gradually pointed in the direction of anarchy. Robert Duvall, fresh off his appearance in “MASH,” is very good here, as well, in the role of a labor organizer.

A Quiet Place in the Country” is a very bizarre Italian giallo, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, who also had been paired in “Camelot.” In it, Nero plays a grumpy Milanese artist who appears to have lost all interest in painting, unless it helps him get laid. The movie gets even stranger when the artist moves into a magnificent villa, where a patron has commissioned him to do some work. As it turns out, the villa is haunted by the spirit of a sexually liberated young woman who died there in WWII. Elio Petri directed “A Quiet Place in the Country,” with an eye for splashy colors and haunting visuals. Redford and Nero make a beautiful couple here, and the sexual tension literally sizzles. – Gary Dretzka

Phineas & Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Dora’s Storybook Adventures/ Enchanted Forest Adventures

The best thing about the new feature-length edition of Disney TV’s “Phineas & Ferb” franchise is its willingness to proudly wave the 2D flag, at a time when everyone in Hollywood is pushing 3D on a generally ambivalent public. In fact, “Across the 2nd Dimension” openly parodies the trend. Fans of the show already know the canon by heart and may already have watched the movie, which has appeared on several of the network’s subsidiaries. Those new to the show should know that P&F are technically proficient stepbrothers, whose fab adventures are often interrupted by their jealous sister and secret agent Perry the Platypus. The former pet’s nemesis is Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who fools the boys into building an “Otherdimensionator.” It allows them to crash their way into an alternate, Bizarro version of the dimension with which they’re familiar. As usual, the cartoon action is spiced with musical numbers, including one in which Doofenshmirtz and his alter ego perform a number about matching up, like the the Blues Brothers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Lucy and Ethel. It’s entertaining enough to keep parents interested, at least for the first 10 minutes or so. The DVD adds eight deleted scenes; the bonus episode, “Attack of the 50-Foot Sister”; and some musical gizmos. The digital disc adds eight musical tracks and the song, “I Walk Away.”

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon/ Paramount continues to sent out themed “Dora the Explorer” collections, some of which are compilations of previously released collections. “Dora’s Storybook Adventures” is comprised of “Fairytale Adventure,” “Dora Saves the Snow Princess” and “Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom.” Meant for the youngest viewers, the episodes are populated by unicorns, dragons, royalty, witches and other fantastic creatures. “Dora’s Enchanted Forest Adventures” finds Our Heroine and Boots in the forested realm of King Unicornio, who, apparently, has lots of rivals. The set adds several music videos. – Gary Dretzka

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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon